Let me start with a story; years ago, driving my mother home after a trip to her opthamologist I was listening to the news, which I found hilarious. She thought I was losing.
"What is so funny?" Ethel asked me as we were passing Canarsie.
"Scientists have determined that pesticides are harmful to humans." For this they spent money? Isn't it logical?
I'm not a scientist. My opinion, it seems is less than valid. Nevertheless, I'll still follow it and my instinct as well. That instinct has not only to tell me to get out before danger hit, but often what is edible in the forest and has told me to say no thank you to Roundup, and the vinekeepers who have told me, "We're organic except for Roundup."
So, I wasn't too surprised to see last week in the Huffington Post an article linking Roundup to birth defects. One of the more stunning grafs in that piece was this:
"Exact figures are hard to come by because the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped updating its pesticide use database in 2008. The EPA estimates that the agricultural market used 180 to 185 million pounds of glyphosate between 2006 and 2007, while the non-agricultural market used 8 to 11 million pounds between 2005 and 2007, according to its Pesticide Industry Sales & Usage Report for 2006-2007 published in February, 2011"
I'll repeat: The EPA estimates that the agricultural market used 180 to 185 million pounds of glyphosate between 2006 and 2007. Stunning. I would love to know what percentage of that belonged to the wine industry.
I will note that Dr. Smart, in his address to the Climate Change and Wine conference did not address how using glyphosate is good for the environment or people.
In February Dr. Richard Smart of Australia posted a fervent article of support for conventional farming on JancisRobinson.com. More recently he parsed the sentiment at the Climate Change and Wine Conference, which seemed to serve as the model for his remarks as summed by Lucy Shaw. Short and powerful. Some of the remarks seemed so inflammatory that I emailed him to see if se got his quotes correct. His response was that his quotes were out of context, yet he did say that biodynamics and organics need to defend their being good for the environment. I was reminded how people who make wine without sulfur or yeast are called to defend themselves, but those who add any of the 200 allowed extras to wine (not to say Reverse Omosis, etc,) get the free ride. The world is backwards. It is Alice in Wonderland all over.
Some people have called me a pot stirrer. This is not a bad thing at all, I like getting things stirred up if there's a good reason. But unless I'm playing, I rarely say something provocative as a throwaway. And quite often what other people think is outrageous (like NZ sauvignon blanc or Screaming Eagle being overrated) I just think is my true opinion. But I have to wonder about Dr. Smart's motivation, other than sensationalism.
One of the strangest statements was this one:
“When people buy food they don’t mind choosing products that have been grown on land treated with chemicals, so why should they care about how a wine has been treated?”
Odd? I mean, has the swell of folk careful about what they eat and the growth in the desire for food farmed with out chemical somehow side stepped the scientist? At least, on a level of taste alone, or call me silly but we care. We really care. This statement was so pot stirring that I had to wonder if he was just being silly or the older I get the more I see fewer people are rational.
Smart smartly defines conventional, (though seems to downplay it into 'sustainable.')
"Conventional viticulture uses synthetic and/or manufactured fertilisers and pesticides. A typical conventional vineyard in Australia and New Zealand would be drip irrigated, use herbicides to create a bare under-vine strip, and with an inter-row cover crop which may be sown or volunteer. The vineyard is typically farmed to avoid severe stress such as from pest, diseases or drought. Pesticide use is often reduced using Integrated Pest Management and also weather station based disease modelling. Conventional viticulture is the most common the world over, though for some regions cultivation replaces herbicide use."
Adequately defines organic.
"This viticultural production system is more restrictive with respect of pest and disease control. No synthetic chemicals are used apart from limited amounts of copper (as Bordeaux mixture) and sulphur as fungicides. Herbal preparations are often used to so-called “strengthen” the grapevine."
And not so smartly defines biodynamic farming.
"Based on guidelines of the German philosopher Rudolf Steiner. It is the most extreme and ideological of all approaches and might even be considered spiritual. The soil is regarded as an integral part of symbiosis between planet, air and cosmos. Biodynamic farmers plan their activities according to the position of the moon and stars and time of year. While Bordeaux mixture and sulphur are permitted fungicides, other agrochemicals and fertilisers are absolutely forbidden. Biodynamicisms?? three main viticultural preparations are dung compost to the soil, horn dung for the roots and horn silica to assist photosynthesis. This system is often ridiculed as being non scientific but its proponents include just a few world-famous producers. This system appears to be the darling of many wine journalists."
He also taps the winemakers shoulder, might a little herbicide help in reducing CO2? And should they not recapture C02 and put it back in the wine. Well, then, he should drink more natural stuff. Didn't M. Chauvet say we should't be afraid of a little gas in wine?(I'm joking, sort of.)"
We all have to do our part to cut back on fossil fuel use, but human beings exhale CO2, wine creates CO2, this is not driving us to the end of the world (waste happens); nuclear disasters like we've seen in Japan are.
In both his speech and his piece for Ms. Jancis, Smart says/writes:
"Gladly, I have never seen any journalist promoting wines from so-called “organic” vines as being more healthy for the consumer, that would be indeed an extravagant assertion, and one which would cause the majority of wine producers a great deal of anxiety."
I understand the anxiety. Big wineries are not wanting to have to change as farming without chemicals and making a more natural wine is contrary to large scale winemaking. He is right there. He is wrong though. I am one journalists who is happy to make that assertion, and I'm not pot stirring. Chemicals that the plant drinks in gets transfered to the drinker. In the winery, what about those added tannins, for example. I just deeply believe it that the less you mess with the food and the soil, the better. If you can use something in nature to combat nature rather than something synthetic, that is better. It is just common sense, no? What's more they're more delicious (to me) as well. I can well understand the industry anxiety.